A new Morning Recovery drink tapping a South Korean herb is getting a lot of buzz
Last call for hangovers – a Silicon Valley entrepreneur thinks he’s brewed the cure to rough mornings.
Sisun Lee, a former product manager at Facebook and Tesla, was sick and tired of waking up sick and tired after nights of boozy networking events and happy hours.
“Five beers, and I know that the next day, I’m in trouble. If I get really drunk, it can take days to recover,” Lee, 26, from Mountain View, Calif., told Moneyish. “People lose a lot of their time with hangovers, and time is a very valuable thing around here.”
But after sampling South Korean hangover remedies during an overseas trip last year put a spring in his step the days after going overboard, he teamed up with a University of Southern California neuroscientist to bring a similar hangover elixir to the States.
Their lightly peach-flavored Morning Recovery drink, which taps a chemical extract (dihydromyricetin, or DHM) from the Japanese raisin tree, also features milk thistle, vitamin B, prickly pear and taurine that supposedly minimize the side effects of alcohol withdrawal that leave you feel nauseated and groggy. The company claims the DHM helps the liver detox faster, while also blocking alcohol from binding to certain receptors in the brain.
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, told Moneyish that while studies have shown DHM has worked successfully to keep alcohol from binding to the receptors in the brains of intoxicated rats, we need clinical trials in humans to prove that this works on us, too. Until this is tested against a human control group, it could just be that drinking the extra bottle of non-alcoholic fluid before bed is what reduces the severity of morning-after withdrawal symptoms.
“The only proven way to prevent a hangover is to abstain from alcohol,” said Dr. Glatter, who suggests taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen with a glass of water before bed to fend off raging headaches the next day.
“This product looks interesting, but it certainly has to be studied more,” he added. “And it should be noted that there are no products that are F.D.A.-approved or that have any proven ability to reduce hangovers or prevent hangovers at this time.”
But drinkers are buying into this, anyway. Morning Recovery hit its $25,000 funding goal on Indiegogo just 10 minutes after launching last week, and has since pulled in $133,000 and counting. It will sell for $5 a bottle, and drinks will be shipping this fall.
“It’s terrible the amount of hours we waste feeling awful,” said Lee.
It’s also costly. The CDC reports the price of lost productivity from workers who call out sick or show up barely able to function after drinking alcohol costs employers nearly $90 billion a year. This backs a U.K. survey that found about 25% of employees work less than four hours the day following an office Christmas party, and another 20% of workers just stay home.
But business culture is soaked in booze. A 2014 study titled “Drinking To Reach The Top” found that more frequent, heavy drinking is linked to high social status in both men and women. “In the tech industry, alcohol is currency,” a non-drinker from the software start-up Puppet agreed in a buzzworthy Model View Culture essay published in late 2015. “We drink to say thank-you, to seal deals, to bid farewell, to make new friends, to rant.”
So it’s not surprising that Lee’s proposed hangover cure has taken off so quickly. After all, it’s tapping the Japanese raisin tree extract (a.k.a. heotgae in Korean) that’s been used in South Korea for centuries. And they should know – hangover remedy drinks are roughly a $120 million industry in South Korea, Lee said.
“Alcohol sales in the U.S. are 24 times bigger than in South Korea,” he said, “so by the same ratio, the hangover recovery market could be more than $5 billion here.”
Morning Recovery was supposed to just be a side project, but test audiences on Facebook were so thirsty for a detoxifying hair-of-the-dog that Lee left Tesla and bellied up to his start-up – including test-driving early versions of the recovery drink himself last spring.
“I called them ‘saturation tests,’ and in a 30-day span, I was probably drunk for 20 days. It was really bad. I gained 15 pounds,” he said. “It was a painful, fun month. But I didn’t want to put out a product until I was sure that it worked.”
And does it? “You will feel much better,” he said, noting that everyone’s unique body chemistry means the drink will work to varying degrees. As a rule of thumb, he suggests drinking one bottle for every seven alcoholic drinks.
“It’s definitely a Band-Aid solution, and not something we can help you with if you intoxicate yourself to the point where they have to flush you out in the hospital,” he warned. “But if you’ve had just a few too many, and you sip one of these before or after you drink, you will notice that your stomach will feel better, and you will be more awake the next day.”
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